Utah Jazz: Andrei Kirilenko thriving at 4 position

Published: Thursday, Feb. 4 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — With the shot clock winding down during a late third-quarter possession on Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena, Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer threw a pass to Andrei Kirilenko, who was cutting to his left.

Kirilenko was in the air as he caught the ball, and in one motion — without coming down to the ground — turned and hit a six-footer over a Trail Blazer defender. It was the type of athletic move that draws oohs, ahhs and "did you just see that?" reactions from the crowd.

Kirilenko, for his part, called it "lucky."

But it was that kind of shooting night for Kirilenko and the red-hot Jazz, who beat their Northwestern Division rivals 118-105 while shooting a season-best 62.7 percent from the field.

Kirilenko was even better than the rest of his team, making eight of his nine field-goal attempts and finishing with 22 points.

"(Brewer) passed me the ball, and I knew I didn't have much time to get the ball and set up my legs," said Kirilenko of his jaw-dropping shot late in the third. "So I released the ball and prayed that it would at least hit the rim and we could get an offensive rebound — and it goes in. Nice shot."

Most of Kirilenko's makes came on high-percentage attempts — including dunks. That was a result of the Jazz sharing the ball so well.

"Definitely lately we are playing almost perfect games," said Kirilenko. "We start from defense and bring execution on offense. We had 32 assists on 42 makes. It's great basketball."

Indeed, the Jazz are playing great basketball right now. They have now won seven in a row and 11 of their last 12 games.

Kirilenko, who rejoined the Jazz starting lineup as the team started its current roll, did his part in passing the ball well against Portland. He dished out a season-high eight assists.

Kirilenko started the game at small forward — the position he's played the majority of the time since Utah signed Carlos Boozer prior to the 2004-05 campaign. But with Boozer out with a calf injury the past few games, Kirilenko has spent time some time at power forward — the position he plays with the Russian national team and where he primarily played for the Jazz when he was an All-Star during the 2003-04 season. Dallas star power forward Dirk Nowitzki, for instance, mentioned how hard it was for him to get the ball with Kirilenko defending him the fourth quarter of Monday night's game.

"(Power forward) has always been Andrei's best position," said Sloan.

"He passes the ball, and he can drive the ball against some of those bigger people he finds himself up against. He can beat them with his quickness and can rebound the ball better. Smaller guys have a tendency to keep him out of those positions."

But when Boozer is healthy and with Paul Millsap as his top backup, Kirilenko gets few opportunities to play power forward. And he knows that when Boozer returns, he won't be asked to play power forward much — if at all — anymore.

"If Boozer would play, I would never probably play four. I would play three for most of the game," said Kirilenko.

But as long as he's playing somewhere — and the Jazz are winning — Kirilenko will be happy.

e-mail: lojo@desnews.com

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